62nd TIFF: Whispers of War

Rolle Khalil (Hadi Khanjanpour)

I really wanted to make a movie about the media, showing how we use and consume videos and footage from the war front”, the director Florian Hoffmann explained during the Q&A session after the screening. And his purpose is clear from the very first scene, when we follow a group of students to whom the value of news is explained and how these can sometimes be manipulated… Almost a declaration of intent: yes, we are watching a movie about the Kurdish community in Germany, we witness the identity crisis of a Kurdish teacher living in Berlin and we are also watching a dramatic portrait of a family separated by the war. But all these layers are interconnected by a common thread that links all the topics in the film: the power of image.

Khalil (Hadi Khanjanpour)

There is a scene during the first act, a discrete scene that can go unnoticed because it doesn’t have the pathos and the drama of other scenes we will see later in the movie. However, this moment represents the beginning, the trigger of the events. Khalil is aware of the situation in his hometown in Turkey, Cizre; he knows well the struggles of the people who stayed to fight for justice and to protest for the abuses the Turkish military are perpetrating against the Kurdish population. But it’s only when, sitting in his dark living room, on his laptop he decides to watch the videos that his sister Senem is shooting and smuggling into Germany with the intent to show them to the European public, that something wakes up in him: at this point it’s not granted to the viewers to watch the same footage as Khalil, but we can see the consequences on his face when the light of the screen is lighting his eyes moving fast from side to side, almost as if they were dancing to the sound of the bombs.

The topic is carried throughout all the movie: the question on how ethical is to manipulate a video is raised, they show us the consequences of the frenetic and fast use of footage that nowadays appear all the same but that instead represents pieces of real lives, often lost or forgotten.

When the main characters make the choice to edit a video of an old lady praying in the middle of buildings ruined by the bombs, adding sounds taken from other videos to make it more impactful, we find ourselves in an impasse; while aware that manipulation of sources is wrong and must be condemned, the movie pushes us to justify these actions because they are useful to raise awareness about such an important topic as the Kurdish conflict.

The director uses his character to throw at us essential ideas about this debate. Especially when, talking about Khalil’s sister, we hear someone saying that “as long as she carries a camera she can’t carry a gun, and we don’t know if she is as good at shooting with a gun as she is at shooting with a camera”.
This incredible declaration makes us understand the intrinsic power of images, in more than one way. A camera as a weapon, but a different kind of weapon: with a gun we can kill people; with a camera we can save their lives.

Being a video activist is not less dangerous for Senem than being a soldier, but she is doing something more important for her people.

But at the end of the day, what the director is doing is a metacinematographic reflection on how to solve this problem we have in society, on how we use images and information.
Is it perhaps possible that the solution is more in the hand of filmmakers, directors and cinematographers than media outlets and news broadcasting?

Quality content is there, we just have to look harder.

-------------------------------------------------------------- SHARING IS CARING! --------------------------------------------------------------


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